The word ‘college’ usually invokes visuals of fancy buildings with cool professors in the classrooms and corridors, and chilling out with fellow students who hangout in the Canteen in colourful clothes. The visual is a stark contrast to strict teachers in drab school buildings, attended in oh-so-boring uniforms. Well, most of it is an illusion created by movies made by the Johars and Khans of Bollywood. In real life, going to college is a privilege which comes with a lot of responsibilities. Both the child (who is an adult now) and the parents need to prepare for the transition, both mentally and physically.
Having done well in class 12th board exams and secured admission in the desired college is a sweet feeling of achievement. However, realization soon dawns; apprehensions begin to grow regarding life in college/hostel away from the protected environment the home provides. It is a watershed moment, both in the lives of parents and the young adult. Having reached the coveted ‘adulthood’ doesn’t really make one prepared enough to face the challenges of life such as staying away from home and becoming independent in the real sense. Meanwhile, parents have to learn to accept that their ‘Chotu’ or ‘Pinky’ have to move on, leaving their chaotic bedrooms vacant.
So here are seven things you must work on before your kid goes to college-
First and foremost, you have to accept the reality that your kid is no more a kid and the time has come for him/her to move away from home. Mental preparation for the event must commence much before the actual move. It is therefore necessary to discuss this issue at length between family members while the kid is in high school itself. Some professional counselling may not be out of ordinary in case of a single child or single parent.
A kid moving out to stay in a hostel or a flat jointly with other kids, or even a PG, would need some grooming to be comfortable and safe. Basic issues- like paying of bills, use of public transport, operating a bank account or ATM, cooking a small meal/survival snacks, doing basic laundry of say undergarments, and changing a light bulb et al- needs to be learnt by the young adult.
It would be nice to have some private moments within the family before the kids leave home, to strengthen the bonds and enhance value system inculcated since childhood. Actually, it runs both ways. Parents too get to know their kids more intimately; as do children, who understand the parents better during such quite, one- to- one quality time. A family vacation would be a better option; may be to one’s hometown or a long cherished tourist destination.
Rules and Freedom
Every college and hostel has its own set of law or rules, which come across as restrictions- like the evening roll call at 7.30 pm or no entry of boys into a girls’ hostel. Mess and class timings are further dampeners on the pre conceived notions about freedom in college life. Some kids are able to cope up with all of thus, while many go astray in attempts to defy the rules. It would be appropriate to discuss and explain the ground realities to the college- going kid to enable him/her to be practical and realistic in expectations. Going through the college prospectus together and getting acquainted through on line forums would be the correct approach.
Dealing with Bullies
Though a kid would have seen his/her share of bullies in school and neighbourhood, the kind kids would encounter in a hostel and/or in a college would be different; especially in view of the fact that in college/hostel, one is on their own without an elder sibling or parents as would be the case back home. Preparing the kid to mentally and physically stand up against such bullies and on ways to deal with ugly situations is a major task for parents. Some professional help or support from alumni is advisable, depending on the situation.
The college- bound kid would need a lot of individual stuff which is generally shared at home, in addition to clothes, linen and books. Go ahead and indulge in some shopping for such items like electric kettle or a Walkman or emergency light for the kid as per his/her choice. Enjoy this shopping time together but just see to it that you get all the practical requirements rather than the wish list. Make suitable travel plans so that you reach in time at the new location and are able to settle the kid administratively without any rush or panic. Most important thing to pack would be a framed family photo which the kid could keep next to the bed – a virtual connect to home and a gentle reminder about family values.
Back Up Plan
While all colleges and hostels insist on having a local guardian (LG) nominated, do plan to have a suitable one to take over in case of an emergency beyond the control of your kid despite all the grooming and preparation done. Identification of such a person is usually a difficult choice and needs deliberations. Ensure the kid has LG’s mobile number on speed dial. Also establish a good rapport with the LG to bring the required closeness and keep a tab on activities.
It is never easy to say goodbye to your child- seeing off for school bus, going away to a college or at the time of wedding. The good thing is, that at every such moment the child is moving up the ladder and it thus becomes a proud time for the parents. Enabling a deeper connect at such times is rewarded by reciprocated closeness and respect.
Don’t forget to tell him / her how much you love him/her. It’s the ultimate source of power to the kid. Take care.